THERE was a very special reunion recently for one Clare family who managed to trace their roots and discovered they are related to one of the world’s most famous families – the Kennedys.
The family of Philomena Delaney, aged 73, and born in Mooghaun, Newmarket-on-Fergus, have uncovered a history linking them to one of America’s greatest dynasties.
Recently, Philomena was delighted to have the chance to meet Bobby Kennedy III in Wexford. Her daughter Rachel Cavanagh is also hopeful the Kennedy family may pay a visit to Clare in the future after her new-found relative gave her his contact details.
After painstaking research into her mother’s family tree, Rachel and Canon Reuben Butler have shown their mother’s great-grandparents are the great-great-grandparents of John F Kennedy.
The history of the family goes back to the early 1800s when Michael Hickey and his wife, Catherine Hassett, both born in Kilnasoolagh, moved to the US with their children.
Among those nine children were John and James. John returned home to Ireland and married Kitty Garvey, going on to have children and grandchildren, including Philomena. Meanwhile, James stayed in America, where he married Margaret Martha Field, who gave birth to Mary Augusta Hickey in Boston in 1857.
Mary Augusta went on to marry Patrick Joseph Kennedy in 1887 and had four children, including Joseph Patrick Kennedy. Joseph Patrick Kennedy went on to marry Rose Elizabeth Fitzgerald, later becoming the parents of the 35th President of the United States.
Rachel explained, “My mother always said that we were related to the Kennedys but we never really had any proof until now. I’d been doing my mother’s family tree with the help of Canon Reuben.
“We were told to get in contact with Clare Heritage for professional help in examining the connection with the Kennedys. We got in touch with Declan Barron and he’s been fantastic in helping to put the family history all together. It was a hard thing to do because there are so many Hickeys in County Clare but Canon Reuben and Declan Barron were great.
“The Heritage Centre even told us that the Kennedys were here a few years ago looking for their relatives in Newmarket-on-Fergus. At the weekend, we went down to New Ross where Bobby Kennedy III was a guest at the Kennedy Summer School and we had our photos taken with him.
“It made my mother’s day. When I said to him about being related, he went straight over to her and put his arms around her. Meeting him was fantastic.
“I asked him would he ever come to Clare and he said his family are supposed to come to Ireland next year. I don’t know if they will visit Clare but I assume they would. He gave me his email address and his phone number and I’m going to get in touch with him when he’s back in America in the next couple of weeks. I think it would be great for tourism in Clare and Newmarket-on-Fergus,” she said.
Philomena added, “We always knew in my family that we were related to the Kennedys. I’d really like the story of Mary Augusta Hickey to be told, of how her family came from Newmarket-on-Fergus.
“When I went down to the Kennedy place in New Ross, I saw just her name and dates on the wall. I thought to myself, ‘wouldn’t it be nice if people knew about her side of the family’.”